By: Vince DiPasquale
In growing up as a small child, my Dad had some powerful lessons he tried to teach me that I’m finally beginning to understand. He used to say, ‘Have patience, little boy.” “Relax, take your time and enjoy the little things of life. Remember that everything happens in God’s time, not ours.” He would say, “enjoy each day, each moment as if it is your last”. He truly was a man of wisdom due to the struggles and experiences he had to endure in his life.
During the month of September, we reflect on the gift of Fall, the season of change and growth. It certainly does not mean we can do whatever we want. Patience is the gift that reminds us that true freedom only comes through struggle, sacrifice and just being open to a constant process of change. We live in a world that thrives on instant gratification. In many ways we have been spoiled by getting too much, too soon. Change and growth is a slow process. We have spent too much time blaming institutions and wanting them to legislate and solve everything. We are the architect of our own life. Change and growth come from each of us. Let us ask ourselves some simple questions. The ultimate question is, Who Are You? Have you taken time to look at yourself? You know that sometimes you have to lose things to truly appreciate them.
Life is short. When you are young you think you’re going to live forever. Today I am grateful for everything I had to struggle and work for. Today, as I write this, I am 80 years old. As I look back on my life’s journey, I’d like to share some key moments.
My childhood: We lived a simple life in a little row house in Camden, NJ. Our only heat was a coal stove in the kitchen. I was so excited in 1947 when we got radiators! We were also the first family to have a television. It only had one channel.
Seminary: In 1954 when I went away to the seminary in Connecticut, I was only fourteen and had to learn how to live on my own. I was scared and still learning how to grow up. In 1957 I was uprooted and transferred to Mother of the Savior Seminary in Blackwood. It was time to start over again. Even though I didn’t know why I was being transferred, at least I was close to my family. My life was a constant process of change and adjustment. In 1962, I was transferred to Mt. St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., where I would finish college and do four years of training in theology. My father’s word of ‘patience’ was getting stronger. I realized that my life was not going to go through the normal process of growth. Everyday had so many expectations that I had to live up to. I had no idea ‘who I was’.
Ordination and Ministry: In 1966 I was ordained a priest and everybody, especially my family, was proud. I now had an identity. I was a priest with more expectations. Later I was sent to my first parish in Vineland, NJ. I went from the frying pan into the fire. The priest I was to live with was very sick. All of a sudden, I was running the parish alone. What a scary adjustment! Over night I was an administrator running the show. Thank God for my experience in the seminary of being the stage manager for some great plays. The next three years, I found myself playing so many roles – priest, administrator, youth program director, teacher. There was no time to sleep. The positive part of this is that my eyes were opened to where God would lead me. My ID was work and that I was always available. In 1969 I was sent to a poor inner-city parish in Atlantic City. My ‘Savior’ identity crisis went into high gear. I was becoming the rebel, going against society, running around & becoming a thorn in the side of all. From working in the prison system, the civil rights movement, to running the parish, I was a one man show.
The Starting Point is born: In 1977, I was tired and took a leave of absence. I went to Philadelphia and on October 17th opened a half-way house and soup kitchen for alcoholics. This was the birth of The Starting Point. It was also the beginning of a new journey, which would lead me to make some major decisions. In time, I would get married and start my life as ‘Vince’. It only took me forty-four years of not knowing who I was.
With Dad’s spirit, an open mind, and a lot of help from my wife’s family and the recovery community, I’m now on the journey of just being me. Now I understand that patience is a virtue. As Dad would say, everything in life will find its way. If you embrace patience and stay open to God’s will; all things will come. Thank you, Daddy, for your guidance and direction. I pray that I will continue on my journey.
May God bless and guide us in the spirit of gratitude, humility and love. Thank you, God, for each day.